What makes for an effective research-practice partnership?

Begin the assessment or evaluation by clarifying the definition of “effective.” Effective at what? A new partnership, for example, might focus on how well partners work together. More mature RPPs are better poised for evaluations of impact. For example, these partnerships might be ready to assess an agency’s or organization’s capacity to turn research findings into improvements. Much of this capacity depends on how individual leaders are engaged in research findings and can apply them.

Researcher Cynthia Coburn suggests, “We know that good working relationships are essential. Having structures and processes to facilitate open and active communication is important, and having regular meetings and processes in place to ensure mutuality are signs that partnerships might be effective.” Coburn adds that cooperation in understanding research findings is an additional sign of effectiveness: “A lot of reports go into piles because people don’t have time to make meaning of them.”

Coburn and Joshua Glazer have assessed partnerships in terms of their “absorptive capacity,” or the capacity of an organization to incorporate knowledge from external sources. This concept is promising because it may help partnerships better support partners’ capacity to use research.

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Evaluating Partnerships for Improvement and Impact